Donald J. Trump, who said months ago that he intended to be “neutral” in the dispute between Israel and the Arabs who live in her midst and at her borders, spoke to the American Israel Political Action Council early this evening and sounded anything but neutral. In fact, he specifically denounced what he called “moral equivalence” between “Palestinian murderers” and their Israeli victims.
Trump fed the AIPAC audience pure red meat from the beginning of his speech to its end; this time there was no mistaking which side of the dispute between Arabs and Israelis the candidate was on.
The JewishPress.com will give you Trump’s words below, and they matter. But perhaps what is most important in this Trump address, and maybe any of them, is not the words but the theater. The atmosphere. The subtext. The body language. The tone of voice. All of those things convey Trump’s promise that, at last, we’re going to hear something from a politician that he actually means. Or at least the kind of thing one does not normally hear from a politician.
Nothing shows this better than the space between the text of Trump’s speech as released – the text written by his people, saying the things his people want him to say — and the text as Trump actually delivered it. That’s the one Trump held out to his audience as a revelation of what he really thinks. Not insignificantly, some of the biggest applause lines were the extemporaneous Trumpulations that came from the very bottom of his ego.
All the Trump tics were there in force – he repeatedly exhorted the audience to “believe me, buleeeeeve me,” and told them many times that he was winning. And he’s the best. And the most. Of whatever.
Trump even had the chutzpah, in a room filled with chutzpadik Jews, to inform his audience that — well, it depends on whether you want the prepared text or the text as delivered. The prepared text, up there on a teleprompter for the first time in recent memory for a Trump speech – was a claim surprising enough as written by his peeps: it had the candidate saying that “I’ve studied [the Iran deal] issue in greater detail than almost anybody.”
But as delivered, Trump’s claim was even less modest than that: Trump confidently told AIPAC that he, Donald Trump had, personally, studied the Iran deal “greater than anybody.” Okay then.
Trump began by telling his audience he wasn’t going to pander to them, as politicians do, but instead would “speak to you about where I stand on the future of American relations with our strategic ally, our unbreakable friendship, and our cultural brother, the only democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel.”
After he got finished saying all of that non-pandering, Trump got down to business.
Trump spent quite a bit of time on Iran, saying he would dismantle the Iran deal; he would stand up to Iran’s aggressive push back to destabilize and dominate the region, that Iran has seeded terrorist groups all over the world, in twenty five countries on five continents including in the Western hemisphere, but that he would “totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network”; and “enforce the terms of previous deals” before the JCPOA came on the scene.
Trump’s discussion of the United Nations began by saying things everyone knows and no-one will say about the UN: that it is “not a friend of democracy, freedom, not even of the U.S. and surely is not a friend to Israel.”
Moving on to recently murmured threats from the Obama administration to support or even sponsor a Security Council resolution forcing Israel to yield to the Palestinian Arabs, Trump began by mentioning that this was happening “with President Obama in his final year.” And then, — not in the prepared text but in reality — he paused, and he smiled.
With a single word, Trump told AIPAC what he thinks of the fact that President Obama’s final year has finally come: “Yay.” His hands gave a downbeat and his voice said the word they way your middle schooler would say it when delivering the news that the 7th grade bully had moved to Alaska. Yay – as in, we all know this should make us happy, RIGHT? What a relief, ok?; Bye, seeya, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
But even more significant than the lilting tone of Trump’s yay was that, when he said those words – “President Obama in his final year” — the audience went absolutely wild. A shouting, standing O. And then Trump, taking his cue from the audience instead of the other way around, answered them: “Obama may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel. Believe me. Bulleeeeve me.” None of that, by the way, was in the prepared text or in the teleprompter. It was just in Trump’s “very good brain,” as he described it just yesterday. This is the theater that matters, at least as much as, and maybe more than, the official words of the message.
And here was Trump’s only mention of the woman he hopes to defeat in November: Hillary Rodham Clinton. He wasn’t ambivalent on the subject, though he didn’t spend anywhere near as much time on her as she had on him. He dismissed her with a single categorical sentence: “Hillary and Obama have been a total disaster and have treated Israel very very badly.”
But now back to the official message. What President Obama was and is doing wrong with the UN, Trump told AIPAC, is allowing it, inviting it, helping it, “to impos[e] terms on Israel that Israel cannot and will not live with. Any agreement imposed by the United Nations would be a total and complete disaster, which the U.S. must oppose.”
Trump’s invocation of his deal-making skills is never far from the center of his sales pitch to America. But it is at the very heart of his discussion about the Middle East, because, he says whenever he discusses this subject, the peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs is “the hardest deal in the world to make.”
Trump brings his negotiating skills to bear: “for any deal, you need two willing participants. We know Israel is willing and has been trying without preconditions for years.” Here he recited the history, available for anyone who really wants to know, of the offers by various Israeli Prime Ministers which the Arabs completely rejected. Even more humiliating to the U.S., Trump said, Secretary of State Kerry “tried to come up with a framework” and that Palestinian Authority leader Abbas “didn’t even respond.”
He then said “the days of treating Israel as a second class citizen will end on my Day One.” Another wild standing O from AIPAC.
Trump also talked about what Arab “leaders” are teaching their children, and the impact of that education on the prospects for peace:
When you live in a society where the firefighters are the hero’s little kids want to be firefighters. When you live in a society where athletes and movie stars are heroes, little kids want to be athletes and movie stars. In Palestinian society, the heroes are those who murder Jews – we can’t let this continue. You cannot achieve peace if terrorists are treated as martyrs. Glorifying terrorists is a tremendous barrier to peace. In Palestinian textbooks and mosques, you’ve got a culture of hatred that has been fermenting there for years, and if we want to achieve peace, they’ve got to end this indoctrination of hatred. There is no moral equivalency. Israel does not name public squares after terrorists. Israel does not pay its children to stab random Palestinians.
More enthusiastic applause. And more after that, when he said that Hamas is the Palestinian ISIS.
Trump’s welcome insistence that Arab education of Arab children to hatred of Jews and Israel isn’t even good for the Arabs, never mind the Jews. If that’s true, then “neutrality” can benefit both Arab and Jew, if it leads the Arabs to stop destroying themselves while they try (and fail) to destroy the Jewish state.
One last point is the left-wing dog that did not bark. Yesterday’s news was the promise, or threat, by Rabbis for Human Rights, Eric Yoffe, and others to “shut down” Trump’s speech to AIPAC. But they did no such thing. To this reporter, carefully watching a live video of the event, there was not an audible peep from such people inside the hall. Apparently the “shut it down” movement was itself shut down. AIPAC’s record, of listening at least politely to the presentation by every serious candidate for President, remains intact. Polite Jews. Who’d a thunk it.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus